The passage suggests that anyone attempting to evaluate Mendelssohn’s career must confront which of the following dichotomies?
Was Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847) a great composer? On its face, the question seems absurd. One of the most gifted prodigies in the history of music, he produced his first masterpiece at sixteen. From then on, he was recognized as an artist of preternatural abilities, not only as a composer but also as a pianist and conductor. But Mendelssohn’s enduring popularity has often been at odds—sometimes quite sharply—with his critical standing. Despite general acknowledgment of his genius, there has been a noticeable reluctance to rank him with, say, Schumann or Brahms. As Haggin put it, Mendelssohn, as a composer, was a “minor master . . . working on a small scale of emotion and texture.”The tension between Mendelssohn’s career as a composer and his career as a pianist and conductor, The contrast between Mendelssohn’s popularity and that of Schumann and Brahms, The discrepancy between Mendelssohn’s popularity and his standing among critics, The inconsistency between Mendelssohn’s reputation during his lifetime and his reputation since his death, The gap between Mendelssohn’s prodigious musical beginnings and his decline in later years
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